Abstraction

Flash Fiction July, 14

The bag of paint tubes rustles in my hand, a second bag with brushes and primer and varnish rattling on my wrist as I scrabble for the key. I’ve finally paid off the apartment, and I get to redecorate the entire place to my liking now. It’s beautiful, but always been strikingly beige. For years I’ve been hanging posters and photos, strategically doing my best to not mark up the wall.

I’ve put down rugs and hung bright clothes in strategic places, as though this is the key to brightening up the place, but the dust and bright light always seems to get to them. My favourite red dress, bright scarlet lace, has since faded to a bruise-red and now looks more like a splash of blood against the wall it’s hooked on.

Lately I’ve been stocking up on canvases, varying in size from postcard-small to half the size of my bed, hanging them all up and planning what to paint.

Uncapping the primer, I’m paused by the fact that I can’t visualize transferring my sketches into something that sprawls over the entire wall. The sketchbook flutters in my hands as I skim through, finding various carefully-rendered details that I wanted to bring to life.

No, I decide, none of these will work. They’re too realistic, too closely detailed. Nothing among this collection will reflect my latest frame of mind. My mind has been in chaos for no apparent reason – then again, it isn’t as though I have been reflecting too deeply. I prefer to leave things unexamined, a lesson I learnt the hard way. Analyzing and examining things only serves to make my mind more chaotic, causes it to work faster and on even more detail.

I don’t want to paint on canvas either. I want to paint straight on the walls, make it harder to remove the work when I inevitably get bored of it.

The canvases slip off the hook easily enough, and I stack them next to an easel. Maybe once I’ve done the walls I’ll do a few smaller pieces, sell them for extra cash. There’s no drop cloth – looks like I forgot to get one, but all the furniture is old. It doesn’t matter if it gets stained with paint or ruined entirely. Numerous tubes clatter to the floor, and I close my eyes, pick one out at random and apply it to the palette.

Blue, shocking blue is the first colour splotched all across the wall, but the method of putting it neatly into a little square drives me mad. I don’t like this, it turns out, and it’s not a hardship to splash blue directly from the tube to the wall. Grab a few different brushes and slice through the clumps of paint, dragging it as far as possible before the colour begins to thin out and fade in the corners of the walls.

Acrylic paint is fast to dry and by the time I’ve finished scraping the paint off my nails to reveal blue-stained nail beds, it’s already mostly dried. The process is quick, easy to repeat with electric pink, smokey gray and orange that clashes with the pink. Somehow I think it’s all tempered by the bland neutral beige that’s now mostly hidden on the wall.

When I come into the living room the next morning, the bold clash of colours hurts my eyes, though maybe they’re just tired from not sleeping enough hours the night before.

Now I’m looking at it, there are tiny little scribbles all over the place, little shapes and numbers and repetitive designs looping all around the border of the wall. Paint has managed to reach the curtains over the balcony door, a Pollockesque design.

None of the designs and scribbles make any sense to me; nor does the pattern that I must’ve done in a zone-out state.

It doesn’t take long before I’m making a second trip to the stores for supplies to do my bedroom, and this time I’m stocking up on metallics and neutrals. The girl working the checkout looks at me warily, and I realize how I must look in a coffee-stained shirt, cutoff jeans semi-covered in paint and my hands shaking slightly from the three coffees I had earlier. There’s no point in trying to smile reassuringly at her. I know from experience and anecdote this will probably only startle her more, as if the strange girl is trying to pretend to be normal.

I return home and throw metallic tones across bedroom walls until the paint runs dry and the furniture has inherited a scattering of gold and silver and copper specks.

When I have friends over, they don’t understand it. They don’t get the reasoning of neons in the living room, pastels in the bathroom and metallic-bedrooms. For a while I consider trying to explain, think about telling them the abstraction in my thoughts and how chaos led to this. I consider how I feel more organized since doing the last of the painting and stripping all the carpets up, how the analytical thinking has wound down for the last few days.

Instead of opening my mouth to tell them, I just shrug and pour out fresh cups of coffee.

(They’re too organized, the kinds of people who work logically structured jobs and make themselves little notes of Things To Think About and Things To Do. Something tells me this group wouldn’t understand it.)

(Later, when everyone is gone, I perch on the counter in the bathroom and study the floor. Plain white flooring, perfectly smooth, unmarred by cracked tile or even tile lines. I open the first bottle of nail polish, discard the brush haphazardly into the sink and begin to pour)

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